The Pentagon

Located in the nation's capital, the Pentagon is a landmark recognized for its five-sided architecture. It is a tremendous symbol of stability and strength in our country. Housing the U.S. Department of Defense, an estimated 26,000 military and civilian personnel presently work in the Pentagon. The Pentagon is located just south of Washington, D.C., on the Virginia side of the Potomac River. It is bordered by the L.B.J. Grove, wetlands, Potomac River, Arlington National Cemetery, a large shopping facility and a major interstate.

Construction of the Pentagon began in 1941 and was completed-in record time-after 16 months at a cost of about $83 million. It has 17.5 miles of corridors, which are arranged in five "rings" around a central courtyard. The building itself measures 6.5 million square feet.

The site is at the center of the entire Washington metropolitan area. It is serviced by a subway system, a major hub for bus commuting, as well as hundreds of van pools and thousands of auto travelers daily. It also provides commercial services to the public, including travel, shopping and entertainment.

Special maintenance challenges Due to the size, location and specified requirements of the grounds-maintenance contract, we have divided the work sites into seven different areas: courtyard, parade grounds, river entrance/river bank, north parking, mall entrance/heliport, south parking/bus terminal, and heating and refrigeration facility. The grounds crew must complete individual tasks in one area or zone and have the inspector approve them before continuing on to another area.

The crew receives frequent requests-often at a moment's notice-to prepare the ceremonial parade field. The parade field is used about 40 times a year for visiting heads of state, promotions and frequent visits from the President of the United States.

The site has more than 100 acres of turf. However, it also has 140 acres of parking lots as well as miles of sidewalks and roadways, which makes non-planted weed control a big challenge. The Pentagon's 26,000 employees have access to the facility and grounds 24 hours a day, which also makes it difficult to arrange the time we need to accomplish this task.

Watering trees, shrubs, turf and flowers is another major undertaking, considering the time, large area and equipment involved. We use two 1,200-gallon water trucks, a large water cannon that draws water from fire hydrants and major amounts of hose and sprinklers. During drought conditions, irrigation requires long hours every day and on weekends.

The courtyard poses a unique challenge in that we have time restrictions during which we can work in this area-it's off-limits to the grounds crew from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Also, we must keep it in prime condition at all times because it is the most highly populated area where people go for eating, walking and frequent entertainment. Additionally, it is the only smoking-permitted section at the Pentagon, which draws an enormous population. Another special challenge is maintaining a level of excellence in grounds maintenance while major buildings undergo renovations that often greatly affect the appearance of the grounds. The heliport is especially difficult to maintain due to constant helicopter traffic. To perform our tasks at this location, we must receive prior clearance.

Special projects Recently, we repaired the river terraces including the parade field. We had to transplant all existing trees and shrubs around the site. We also replaced all sod, shrubs, ground covers and flowers: 1,500 columnar hornbeams planted in a hedge, 12 hollies, 12 purple plums, 75 burning bushes, 300 Taxus densiformis, 150 azaleas, 250 red barberries and 1,000 liriope.

After extensive reconstruction of two roadways-A Drive and E Drive (courtyard entrance)-we filled large islands and beds with plants: 10- to 12-foot (Nellie Stevens) hollies, 400 yuccas, 2,000 liriope, 12 purple plums, 200 Hicks yews, 150 burning bushes, 200 barberries and 0.5 acre of sod.

Due to the installation of a 12-foot steam tunnel around the perimeter road, we had to transplant hundreds of shrubs including extremely large (Burford) hollies. Upon completion of the installation, we had to repair all damaged areas as well as new plantings that included 200 Chinese hollies, 240 spreading yews and 1 acre of sod. We also replaced all damaged irrigation.

In support of the management team program endorsing the perpetuation of the American elm tree in the nation's capitol, we also cabled, pruned and sprayed 68 mature American elms. Additionally, we have installed about 400 cables in mature trees at the Pentagon to better protect and maintain the trees as well as the safety of the public. John E. Dingus is the district manager for The Davey Tree Expert Co. (Chantilly, Va.), which has maintained the Pentagon grounds for 5 years.

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